Monday, May 22, 2006


Sonny Matson - The Prep Game

During the fall football season of 1955, our first game was against Seattle Prep, always a tough opponent. We had established a tradition playing a “pre-season” game against them, as well as against Stadium High School in Tacoma, also tough. Do you remember that one or our games was televised in 1955 when we played Stadium HS at Highline? Final score - Highline 13 Stadium 12. That was even before Sputnik was launched on Oct. 4, 1957! But, that’s another story.

From the start of the game, it was head-to-head, rough football. The final outcome was anyone’s guess. At some point in the second half (you can tell it must have been the second half by the condition of my uniform) Seattle Prep’s strategy was to grind out yardage with their running attack. Our defense quickly picked up their strategy and countered with a more aggressive attack by linebackers and defensive backs (more blitzing and anticipating which offensive back would carry the ball for Prep and where he would attack).

Alf Hemstad was a good defensive coach. He played as a guard for the University of Washington and won acclaim as an all-conference guard. As an aside, before attending the U of W, “Alfie” was a co-pilot for B-17’s flying out of England to spread joy and mayhem to the Third Reich. He was a good man, husband, and father, and was one tough hombre when he faced hostile competition.

Prep's star left halfback, Sam Paffile, was a major threat. (A left halfback is now referred to as a “tailback”. In our era tailback was a term reserved for single wing football. Do any of you remember single wing football formations?) Anyway, we received a defensive signal from the bench to “blitz” the left side of Prep’s formation, in anticipation that Sam Pafille was going to carry the ball in that direction. I played as a defensive back, so when the ball was snapped I was to have been in motion to be at the line of scrimmage to meet Sam Pafille!

Everything worked just as our plan predicted. I was in the process of hitting Sam at the line of scrimmage when Don Ossinger showed up. It was all over in what seemed like a split second. The photographer snapped the photo about half way through a violent pirouette. Here’s what happened. . . Don and I crushed Sam between us upon contact, and with Don’s momentum, spun us around. As we all went to the ground, I ended up on the bottom, Sam in the middle, and Don on top. In the split second that all this occurred, I distinctly hear a “snap” and a “grunt” of pain. It took another split second to realize what had happened, and it was very quiet. I heard Sam groan, again, and as Don was “unpiling”, I asked Sam if he was injured. He grimaced, and then said he thought he had broken his leg! I told him to hold still and I would gently untangle from him and get the referee. The Ref showed up a second later, and then signaled for a stretcher. Before I left Sam, I asked if he would be OK. He said he thought so, and then slightly smiled and said, “Thanks for your help”. What a good guy, good sport, and admirable competitor! Happily, Sam only “cracked” a bone in his leg, which would keep him from playing for only three to four weeks.

Who won the game? Highline 18 Seattle Prep 12

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